Morning Newsletter

No Child Left Behind waiver sought

LOUISVILLE — Citing the strength of historic public education reforms already under way in Kentucky, the state submitted its application Monday asking to be relieved of some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The application met a nationwide deadline for states that planned to ask the U.S. Department of Education for relief from some parts of the Bush-era law that lawmakers in Washington are still attempting to rework.

"We're very confident that Kentucky's application for flexibility ... meets all of the criteria outlined by the U.S. Department of Education," Terry Holliday, Kentucky's commissioner of education, said via email. "And we believe that our public school accountability model exceeds the basic requirements, while retaining an intense focus on the ultimate goal of college and career readiness for all students."

In September, Holliday was one of a handful of educators who joined President Barack Obama on stage when he formally introduced a waiver plan that would allow states to ignore some key provisions of the law if certain conditions were met. With the announcement, Obama took the unusual step of bypassing Congress, saying the inaction by lawmakers to overhaul NCLB spurred him to action.

Kentucky had been the first state to formally ask the federal government to be excused from some requirements under No Child Left Behind when Gov. Steve Beshear sent a letter to Washington last summer. Holliday said in September that education officials were ready to work on reapplying.

Jefferson County parent Myrdin Thompson commended state education officials for being proactive in the application process and including "parent-family voices as stipulated by the Department of Education."

"As the debate continues in Washington, D.C., about (NCLB) reauthorization, we know that there are no simple answers about what is best for all students, but that the decisions being made 'on the Hill' will impact state and local decision-making," said Thompson, a public-education advocate who has three children in the Jefferson County public school system and who recently attended meetings on the topic in Washington.

Thompson urged lawmakers to "remove politics from the equation."

Under NCLB, progress for public schools is primarily measured using scores from standardized reading and math tests. Reductions in federal funding, among other things, are the punishment for being listed as a failing school or district.

Kentucky's new assessment model scraps the one-test method and instead measures a school's progress using a combination of test scores, achievement-gap levels, student progress, graduation rates and career- and college-readiness benchmarks. Among the requirements to obtain a waiver is a strong plan to ensure that graduating students are college- or work force-ready.

Kentucky education officials have been overhauling the state's public education system from top to bottom since the 2009 passage of Senate Bill 1, which mandated that every Kentucky public high school student be prepared for higher education or a career upon graduation.

States were allowed to request waivers of 10 provisions of the law. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had said states should have a response late this year or in early January.